(This is an excerpt from a reply made to a post on another message board.)
Western church today: A community social service center, which provides programming and events to entertain and reinforce it’s members’ normally comfortable lifestyles, and generally helps to raise their children to be “good”, as well as providing the a fore mentioned services to the kids also. The church provides opportunities for spiritual experiences, and gives it’s members peace about the future, knowing that since they believe, they no longer have anything to fear, because God is there to bless them. Of course, since God has blesses them with so much, they feel an obligation to those they meet to let them in on the “secret” of church. All they have to do is say a prayer and “clean up” their life (i.e. don’t smoke, don’t cuss, wear nice clothes, at like everything’s going as well as it must be because of God’s blessing, etc.), and they can expect to enjoy all the benefits of church membership as well. At the same time, the church members are hesitant to interact with those who don’t look like members to much, as they (the church members) are afraid that they may become tainted, or worse, may be offended by something that the non-look-a-likes say or do. To prevent this, church people got together and created their own tightly monitored network of information and propaganda which they are sure is honest and unbiased. The quality isn’t so important as is the closely controlled message. Of course because the message is “right”, it is the duty of members to be completely supportive. And heck, even non-members ought to be moved by the persuasive, warm message.
It’s like the old magazine: can you spot what’s wrong with this picture? And we wonder why we’re so ineffective at evangelism. We live like the world, have a cheapened copy of their entertainment, only we tell ourselves to deny a few pleasures, and act like we’ve got our act together all the time. I was thinking, it’s sad but in this current situation, one has to take the christian out of the christian in order to make them a follower of Christ. My pastor said to me just the other day most all of the past five years at our church have been “deprogramming.” That is, getting the church members to see things differently, see that maybe buying into the American dream isn’t the narrow way to follow Christ.
I know this is a stereotypical, unbalanced view that I present here. But I believe that I point out some serious issues that we need to be looking into and discussing as a church. I mainly present this view because it is an angle that is not normally seen nor looked at.
Here in America almost everyone has some kind of stigma/stereotype attached to church and christians. Many christians want to simply dismiss these as being totally unfounded and untrue, beliefs held only by those who don’t know any better. The problem is (as we know) that often times there’s a lot of truth to these stereotypes. Although I almost felt that I was being too critical of church [previously], I think that unfortunately many churches are that way. I believe I just summed up the stereotype well.
Where I (and many others in this discussion I’m guessing) differ from the average christian, is that I don’t hold up church and christians and “christian” stuff as sacred cows in the since that we can’t be honest and critical about the problems with what they are now. It seems that in most christian circles, you can’t be to critical or questioning because in their minds all of the important questions have been figured out and answered long ago.
I agree that activities such as concerts or sports, are a great way of connecting with non-christians, when they know that christians are facilitating the event. I think the reason this is the case is that it allows them a chance to see beyond the stereotypes. The thing is, we have to be careful not to become stereotypical.